November 10, 2008
"Last week was a spectacular one overall. Indian summer temperatures, golden leaves and blue, blue, blue skies. On Thursday, after our parent-toddler class closed outside in the gazebo, a parent looked up and commented on the beauty of the golden leaves against the blue sky. To take it in better, she reclined in a pile of leaves, her son next to her. Before I knew it, there were six of us lying in the leaves gazing at the autumn sky.
Later that evening we gathered at 6:00 p.m. for the Martinmas festival. We lit the candles in our lanterns, practiced our songs and then processed onto the land behind the church where we could notice the effect of our lanterns on the dark night. We then gathered in a circle in the gazebo so we could see and even better, hear each other singing: ""I go with my little lantern"", ""The sunlight fast is dwindling"", ""Glimmer, lantern, glimmer"" and ""Lanterne, lanterne"". In the middle of the gazebo was a log with a carved pumpkin and a few other votive lights to create a center piece of light, but what shone the most (for me) were the faces around the circle.
When we went inside, we had snacks of pumpkin cookies and cider with the children seated at the table. Then we heard the story of ""Where No Light Shines"" and sang a little more before leaving. Someone did a headcount and stopped when she reached sixty. It felt full, festive and peaceful.
Now that we have kindled the sparks in our hearts and in our community, we are ready to face the short days and long evenings that are ahead leading up to the solstice. Although the little ones do not know the significance of the festivals, it becomes a part of them and a happy memory from their childhood. The more warm and happy memories we can store up in childhood, the more we can impart the same for others when we are adults.
Where No Light Shines
Once upon a time there was a man, a very bad man. He was lazy, miserable, he used ugly language, he was unkind even to his wife and children, he was cross, in fact he was very, very bad.
Now one day St. Michael decided that something must really be done about all this, so he called one of his angels to him and said ""Dear Angel, there is a bad man down on the earth. Will you go and live in his house for one year and try and make him better? You must leave your wings behind, but there is alittle red cap and as long as you have this, you will be able to come back to heaven. Do not take it off, and do not lose it.""
So the angel, whose name was Christina, took off her wings and put on the little red cap and went down to earth. When she reached the man's house, she knocked on the door. The man's wife came to see who was there. Said Christina: ""Good woman, will hyou take me as your serving maid? I do not want any money, only give me some food and a corner to sleep in, and I will serve you well for a year."" ""This is alright,"" thought the man's wife: so she bad Christina come in and, fastening a big apron over her white garment, she set her to work.
It was marvellous to see the change that was wrought in that house in less than no time. When the man came home from his work, everythihng was in such good order and such a fine meal awaited him that there was nothing to scold and grumbled about. When he used ugly words, Christina sang with such a sweet and gentle voice that he was put to shame. In short, her beauty and goodness, her kind and gentl deeds, soon blew all his ugliness away.
Well, presently, the devil began to notice this state of affairs. He was accustomed to a very plentiful harvest of bad and ugly deeds from the man's house, and when these stopped coming down he decided to look into the matter.
""So - ho,"" said he, ""St. Michael has sent one of his angels! Well, I will send one of my devils, and we will see what we will see.""
So he sent up one of his devils to the man's house and the first thing the little devil did was to put his foot into a baseket of eggs and smash them, so that they ran all over the floor. But Chrstina simply cleaned up the mess with never a cross word. Then the devil set to work to upset more things and to cause as much confusion and disturbance as he could. He teaed the children and made them cry: he started quarrels and fights among the. But, whatever he did, Christina set it to rights again with such patience and sweetness that the devil at last grew tired of his work and fell to watching Christina. She was so beautiful, and everything around her was so beautiful, that he began to dislike the idea of leaving all this and returning to the darkness and ugliness of his own world.
At last Christina's year was up. Said she: ""Now I am going back to heaven. Goodbye little devil!"" ""Goodbye,"" said he forlornly, ""I wish I were going with you.""
Christina started off but she had not taken many steps when the spirit of mercy touched her, and made her return. ""I am sorry for you, devil,"" said she, ""here, take my little cap and go to heaven instead of me."" And she took the little red cap off her own golden head, and placed it on the devil's black one. No sooner was it there than the devil began to chane. The horrid black hair that covered him fell off and a heart began to beat in his breast - for you must know, children, devils do not have a heart.""
He looked at Christina standing there, so good and so beautiful. Then he took the red cap off his head: ""Where you are, Christina, there is heaven. I will stay with you.""
So they both stayed on earth, helping other people so that one day all might make heaven on earth together. And St. Michael looked down from heaven and was very, very happy.
- K. Schubert (slightly adapted)"